Zimbabwe diamond miner dismisses 240 workers, union vows to challenge dismissals

Zimbabwe diamond miner dismisses 240 workers, union vows to challenge dismissals

By Chipo Musoko, HARARE, May 12 (The Source) – Mbada Diamonds, one of Zimbabwe’s largest diamond miners, has dismissed 240 employees who went on strike last Friday over unpaid salaries but the workers union told The Source that it will challenge the dismissals.

Mbada, a joint venture between South Africa’s New Reclamation Group-owned Grandwell Holdings and the Zimbabwe government’s mining investment vehicle Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, gave the workers termination letters on Tuesday directing them to cease reporting for work with immediate effect and to serve their notice period at home.

“Please be advised that the corporate will not be renewing your contract of employment upon its expiry on the 30th of June 2015,” read one of the letters seen by The Source and signed by the acting administration and human resources manager, Albert Zindi.

“The corporate hereby undertakes to pay all outstanding payments due to you on a monthly basis spreading over a period of four months through the corporate’s payroll until all such is extinguished in full.”

According to the letter, a statement of accounts indicating how much the employee is entitled to would be made available on July 6.

The Zimbabwe Diamond Miners Workers Union (ZDMWU), which represents 400 workers at the mine, confirmed the dismissals but called them unlawful.

“We are challenging the termination, it’s unlawful. We are also taking up the issue of non-payment of salaries with the National Employment Council for the Mining Industry,” ZDMWU general secretary Justice Chinhema said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

Chinhema said Mbada management had initially sent workers home and asked them to attend disciplinary hearings on Monday, but terminated contracts after realizing that they had not followed the law.

“These companies are also trying to create commotion to use it as an excuse so that government abandons its plans to consolidate diamond mines,” he said.

The Zimbabwe government recently announced it would consolidate all diamond mines in Marange, saying the move was meant to promote transparency and curtail rampant corruption and leakages in the sector.

Other miners in the Chiadzwa area include Marange Resources, Diamond Mining Company (DMC), Anjin and Jinan. The proposal to consolidate all diamond mining in the country would also affect Murowa Diamond Mine near Zvishavane, owned by global resources giant, Rio Tinto plc.

One of the workers, whose contract was terminated after working for the company for over two years, said initially they had reported at work for hearings and had been sitting outside the complex since 6am only to be given dismissal letters after 10 hours of waiting.
“We were told to return on June 30 to return the uniforms and to discuss how much we are owed,” said one axed employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation.

Mbada officials, who are reportedly operating from their homes after abandoning their offices in the capital for fear of ex-employees who have besieged the premises for the past two months, were not immediately available to comment on Tuesday.

The workers, who earn an average $250 per month, told The Source on Monday that their salaries were slashed by 50 percent last June and this year they had only received between $200 and $400, each, in April.